So they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.” He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus. Jesus said to him in reply, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man replied to him, “Master, I want to see.” Jesus told him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” Mark 10:46-52
The challenge, as we contemplate the election now already underway, is what we can see, what we want to see, what we are told to see and what we refuse to see.
Nudged by Marianist Bro. Tom Spring into reading Marcus Borg’s Speaking Christian, I found myself wanting to leap up like the blind beggar, Bartimaeus.
Because Speaking Christian makes us see.
Given how many far right “Christian” politicians have tried to woo voters with their supposedly Bible-based beliefs, Speaking Christian feels like essential reading before November 6.
Borg tells us that about “half of American Protestants belong to churches that teach . . . that the Bible is inerrant and infallible.”
It is the hard core literalism of these Bible-thumpers that makes the United States sound increasingly like a Third World country. From global warming and evolution deniers to the born-again scientists of rape, the pronouncements have come thick and fatuous, untouched apparently by science or even the rigors of medical school.
Speaking Christian helps us deal with this assault on common sense.
Borg rescues us just as we risk drowning, dragged down as we are daily by the unthinking use of the language of faith. He saves us from the “provinciality of the present” by reminding us that “the Bible was not written to us or for us, but within and for ancient communities.” Today’s far-right Christian politicians with their heavy-handed moralizing seem to know nothing of Borg’s caution about how to read a book written for ancient communities. They appear not to understand, as he does, that “what it meant for their then may not be what it means for our now.”
The Politics of Salvation
With so many politicians intent on foisting their notions of what it takes to be “saved” on their constituents, it is critical that people of faith understand the politics of salvation. Noting that the root of the word “politics” is in the Greek polis, meaning city, Borg reminds us that politics “is about the shape and shaping of societies, nations, and the world itself.” In that sense, he tells us, salvation as we read about it in the Bible revolves around “two focal points: justice and peace.”
The ancients had their wealthy ruling elites whose lives of comfort depended on the labors of the 90 percent who eked out their existence on the margins. We have our one percent vs the 99 percent. “Pharoah and Herod and Caesar are still with us. From them we need to be saved,” says Borg.
Perhaps we can start by looking for our contemporary Pharoahs, Herods and Caesars on Wall Street and in offshore havens that shelter their wealth.
But we also yearn to be saved from the institutionalized violence of policies and practices that perpetuate poverty and prompt wars. And that is the other political meaning of salvation as Borg sees it. From the prophets to the Gospels, we are reminded repeatedly that to ‘walk in his path” we need to “beat our swords into plowshares” and not just love our neighbor, but love our enemies. The call of salvation is therefore a call to peace and nonviolence.
Vote for Peace & Justice: It’s the Call of All Faiths
We are not alone in this yearning. Anyone “speaking” Buddhist or Hindu, Sikh or Muslim in the sense in which Borg invites us to speak Christian, knows that the commitment to peace and justice is central to the transformation of ourselves and to the building of a better world.
Who amongst our would-be leaders is willing to make such a commitment and stay true to it? We might find answers by tuning in to the call of faith, the small, insistent voice in our inner being that helps us sort through the noise outside. That small, sure voice is what voters need in the polling booth now. Listening, they might see which leaders are most likely to work for justice for those on the margins; they might see which leaders will truly work for peace, especially with our enemies.